2023 Video Spot News/Feature - Silver

Bahar Dutt followed biologist Ayushi Jain on a quest to save the Asian giant softshell turtle, once found across South and East Asia and today on the edge of extinction. Called Bhimanama locally, the giant turtle can be more than three feet long and weigh more than 220 pounds. When Jain started out, “We didn't know whether the turtle was still present in the country,” she said. She began partnering with those thought to be the turtle’s enemy, the fishers in whose nets the giants would get trapped as bycatch. Soon fishers started sharing information on sightings and nesting. Jain followed up by training them to release the turtles ensnared in their nets instead of killing them. Dutt joined Jain on her motor scooter as they raced to a nesting site where turtle eggs had been taken from the wild to prevent their loss due to rising river waters. Just in time, Jain and Dutt witnessed the hatchlings gingerly emerge from their shells, one of the few times such hatching of the rare turtles has been documented. Given changes in the river system due to dams and sand mining, Jain warns, more resources are urgently needed to protect the turtles. A strong first step is the local community’s acceptance of her research and conservation efforts. A crowd of teachers, forest officers, children, and fishers from the local village accompanied Jain and her colleagues to the river when they released the batch of hatchlings. Judge Angela Saini, a British science journalist and author, said: “For me, this is an example of the perfect short science video. The story of the young conservationist and her passion for a much-neglected species, along with the local community who have come together to protect it, was utterly heartwarming and inspirational.”  Bahar Dutt said the award “is a very big deal” for her team. Regarding the story, Dutt said she was struck particularly by “the scale at which Ayushi Jain had been able to mobilize the community and energize the local forest department for the species.” She added, “We are grateful to platforms like Roundglass Sustain that enabled us to shine a light on this unique species.”